A  ROMANOV ALBUM

Family History

The Romanov family ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917. They ascended the throne at the end of one of the most critical periods of Russian history, known as the Time of Troubles (1589 Ð 1613). The last tsar of the previous dynasty, a weak son of Ivan the Terrible, died in 1589. After which followed a period of foreign invasion and internal strife, and the throne was occupied by a series of usurpers and pretenders.

Finally in 1613 a zemsky sobor (national assembly) was called to reestablish a firm government and especially to elect a new, legitimate tsar. The assembly consisted of more than five hundred members, including representatives of all classes: clergy, boyars (nobility), gentry, townspeople, and the free peasantry (but not serfs). After much noisy and contentious debate, Mikhail Romanov was selected to lead Russia into a new civilized era. He was crowned in the Uspensky Cathedral in the Kremlin on July 11,1613.

The Romanov family was popular with all classes of people, including the lower ranks of the gentry and city dwellers, though the new tsar was only 17 at the time of his coronation and without any political experience. Mikhail's son Alexis, "the Quiet One", ascended to the throne after his father's death, and son followed father generation after generation until Peter the Great took the title of emperor and declared that his wife Catherine I would succeed him.

Peter ruled from 1682 to 1725 and was author of the great reforms that westernized Russia. He brought the country, through his new capital at St. Petersburg, directly into the family of European nations. Catherine ruled after his death and was succeeded by several weak relatives until the last was ousted by Peter the Great's daughter Elizabeth (ruled 1741-1761), who began the Asian conquests that enlarged the Russian Empire to one-sixth of the world's surface.

Catherine II, or Catherine the Great , (ruled 1762 Ð1769) brought European neoclassical art and architecture to Russia, and French culture and language dominated the life of the nobility and the Russian court. Her son Paul I restored the succession of oldest sons to the throne, which continued through Alexander III and Nicholas II, the last tsar.

Alexander III (ruled 1881 Ð 1894) began a web of railroads that united the Far East with the rest of the nation and greatly facilitated the administration of so large a realm. Economic development followed and the growth of the arts encouraged. Nicholas II ascended to the throne after his father's death on October 20, 1894.

The Russian Empire at the turn of the century was huge. The United States could be dropped into it and still leave room for China and India. That last tsar, Nicholas II, ruled an empire that bordered Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia, and China while Poland, the Baltic States, and Finland were Russian territories. More than a hundred nationalities owed allegiance to the tsar, though Nicholas II himself was less than one-hundredth-part Russian due to generations of Romanovs marrying other Western royal families. His wife Empress Alexandra was part English, part German, and inherited from her grandmother Queen Victoria the defective gene that made her son Alexei a hemophiliac.

Three hundred years of Romanov rule came to an end with Nicholas II's abdication in 1917. After the Bolshevik Party came to power in October of that year, many powerful Romanovs were assassinated, including Nicholas, Alexandra, their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei. The bodies of two of their children, Anastasia and the heir to the throne Tsarevich Alexei, have not been found. Recently, modern scientific DNA testing has identified their remains allowing for a royal burial in 1998 in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg. The relationship of Nicholas II and Alexandra, their love and their final end, and the mystery surrounding the missing children has inspired novels, poetry, and films and continues to fascinate people around the world.